Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 12 June 2011





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Usage patterns of 'ask'

'Ask' is a useful verb usually used to put a question to somebody, or to request an answer from someone.

The teacher asked me a question.

Ask your teacher, if you don't know the answer.

I asked the PM (Postmaster) the cost of a sheet of stamps.

Can I ask you a favour?

Nayana asked a question about Sigiriya.

I asked the PM (Postmaster) the cost of a sheet of stamps.

"What time do you go to bed?" She asked.

If you need anything, please don't hesitate to ask.

You should ask your lawyer for some legal advice on this matter.

Note: In Sri Lanka we often hear expressions such as:

"Go and ask from your teacher."

"I'll ask from my friend."

These expressions are incorrect and non-standard.

'Ask' is used to request or invite someone to do something.

She asked me to the birthday party.

She asked me to come to the party.

We use 'ask' to expect or demand something.

Jacob is asking for Rs. 65,000 to join our company.

You're asking too much of me.

There are some idiomatic expressions in which 'ask' is used. Let's have a look at some of them.

With 30 years experience behind him, the promotion was his for the asking.

(They had to give him the promotion.)

Using the mobile phone while driving is really asking for trouble. (Likely to cause problems).

Don't ask me where you left your pen. (This is an informal way of saying 'I don't know the answer.')

If you ask me, nobody should try to be a journalist without lanuage skills. (When you want to give your opinion).

A: How did Punchisingho get a doctorate?

Donít ask me for money.

B:You may well ask. (It is interesting to know).

When the object of 'ask' is the thing that is wanted, use the preposition 'for.'

The tourist is asking for more information about Sigiriya.

Note: You can 'ask' a question.

I want to ask a question.

But you have to ask for an answer.

Don't ask me for money.

"Don't ask me my name," is more common than "Don't ask me for my name."


Know your idioms

Idioms are colourful and fascinating. They are used both in formal and informal English. However, idioms pose certain difficulties to the beginner. To make you familiar with idioms, we bring you a quiz. Tick off the correct answer and check with the key.

1. In the battle between terrorists and governments, the latter seem to hold all the aces.

(a) have all the advantages

(b) have temporary success

(c) have many disadvantages

2. Norma is beautiful and charismatic but vanity was her Achilles' heel.

(a) strong asset

(b) small fault

(c) major weakness

3. The acid test of the new bill will be whether people will benefit from it.

(a) laboratory test

(b) test using acid

(c) real test

4. Thilanga, act your age. Your can't have your own way here!

(a) remember your age

(b) behave in a sensible manner

(c) don't try to be young

5. Keeping both sides happy in a dispute is a balancing act.

(a) a difficult situation

(b) an easy job

(c) unpredictable

6. After graduation you must get your act together and find a job.

(a) apply for vacancies

(b) meet influential people

(c) organise your activities

7. Jerome opened a sea fish restaurant in the city and many others started trying to get in on the act.

(a) become involved

(b) object

(c) befriend him

8. I think my TV is out of action.

(a) too old

(b) too big

(c) not working

9. Cathy's words only added fuel to the fire.

(a) make a good situation better

(b) made a bad situation worse

(c) prolonged the agony.

10. The teacher negotiates his fees on an ad hoc basis.

(a) not in a planned way

(b) very carefully

(c) craftily

11. Mary's complaints about her job go on ad infinitum.

(a) occasionally

(b) once in a way

(c) without stopping

12. Malky talks about her cats and dogs ad nauseam.

(a) happily

(b) to the point of disgust

(c) passionately

13. Without more ado, let me introduce the guest speaker.

(a) delay

(b) wasting words

(c) permission

14. Nancy is afraid of her own shadow.

(a) proud

(b) bold

(c) extremely nervous

15. Giving an annual bonus is off the agenda until the company makes profit.

(a) important

(b) not going to happen

(c) top priority.



1. (a)

2. (b)

3. (c)

4. (b)

5. (a)

6. (c)

7. (a)

8. (c)

9. (b)

10. (a)

11. (c)

12. (b)

13. (a)

14. (c)

15. (b)


Starters :

[Tenses - Part 2]

Present continuous tense

The present continuous tense is formed with present tense of the auxiliary verb 'be' + the present participle (-ing).


I am reading.

You are reading.

He/She/It is reading.

We are reading.

You are reading.

They are reading.


I am not reading.

You are not reading.

He/She/It is not reading.

We are not reading.

You are not reading.

They are not reading.


Am I reading?

Are you reading?

Is he/she/it reading?

Are we reading?

Are you reading?

Are they reading?

Negative interrogative

Am I not reading?

Are we not reading?

Is he/she/it not reading?

Are you not reading?

Are they not reading?


The verb 'be' can be contracted in the following way:


I'm reading.

You're reading.

He's/She's/It's reading.

We're reading.

You're reading.

They're reading.


I'm not reading.

You're not reading.

He's/She's/It's not reading.

We're not reading.

You're not reading.

They're not reading.

Negative Interrogative

Aren't I reading?

Aren't you reading?

Isn't he/she/it reading?

Aren't we reading?

Aren't you reading?

Aren't they reading?

Rules for spelling of the present participle.

i) When a verb ends in a single 'e' it is dropped before adding 'ing'.

I heard them arguing over some personal matter. (verb:argue)

The rule does not apply to verbs ending in 'ee'.

agree: agreeing

see: seeing

When a verb has one vowel and ends in a single consonant, it is doubled before adding 'ing'.

The boys were running to school.

Other examples: hit: hitting

stop: stopping

A final 'l' after a single vowel is always doubled.

When we got the news we were travelling to Peradeniya.

We can add 'ing' to a verb ending in 'y' without any change.

The laptop comes with a carrying case.

We were enjoying ourselves.

Where are you hurrying?

Next Week: More on the

present continuous tense.


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